FITNESS OR MOMENTUM? MAPPING A HUGE 3 GAME WEEK – Le Grove – The Arsenal Opinion Blog

My oh my have things changed around here. 10 years ago, more people would land here on the bad days, now, more people tune in when we WIN.

That win… I’m still thinking about it. Everything feels like it’s coming together nicely.

Key thing for me and a sign of progress is that even though we won, Arteta was pretty brutal after the game about the bits he didn’t like.

‘We didn’t have the same energy and commitment defensively. When that happens, you’re going to suffer. Defensively we didn’t have the right structure. We didn’t detect with enough urgency the moments where they could activate certain spaces. That’s why we suffered.’

He’s talking about a lot of elements there, but a chunk of that is aimed at Granit Xhaka, who by his standards, had a poor game.

The reality of our system is a lot of detailed thought goes into each game. It’s a lot of data and science. If one cog in the machine breaks, the whole thing can look messy, and it comes with consequences. Granit Xhaka kept allowing Sissokho to make untracked runs beyond him, Arteta kept pulling him on it, it was a nightmare because it stretched the game, it over-exerted our defenders, and on another day, that sort of airheadedness/laziness will cost us points.

Don’t even get me started on the ridiculous pass that lead to their second goal. It’s just inexplicable that he’d try that, under low pressure, in a game that was basically wrapped up. You can’t excuse it, he’s 29 years old, he should know better, but it’s just part of the deal with him. He’ll be upgraded to a true #8 this summer that can do the bits he’s struggling with.

Climbing out of the negative, into the future-gazing.

We’re at the stage of the season where things get SPICY.

The variable levels kick up a gear and fitness considerations really come into focus.

The biggest mountain we have to climb next week is the NIGHTMARE 3 game run.

  • A late Sunday game
  • A midweek game against the best team in the country
  • An early Saturday game away from home

We could go from sitting pretty in the league patting each other on the back about top 4, to ‘in the shitter’ pretty fast.

The question is how do you manage those games?

Leicester is having a poor season (12th). Brendan Rodgers might need to rescue the season with a trophy. He’ll be sending out a strong team in the Europa Conference this Thursday and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him rest some key players on Sunday.

The question for Arsenal is how do they approach their squad selection?

Do you go big for every game?

Do you go big for the games you have a better chance to win?

Is there a world where you field a weaker team against Liverpool?

It’s a really tough one.

What is more important to preserve, momentum or fitness?

How important is a win against a BIG team this season, because we haven’t had one, though we’ve come close?

How badly could a painful loss affect morale? We haven’t had a chance of late to see how a heavy loss impacts the confidence of players. That’s a telling part of the learning process I’m not sure I want to see next week.

Injuries are part of the game, how would this side deal with a big Kieran Tierney injury, remember, he was cramping. Would our season survive losing Alex Lacazette? How will Tomiyasu hold up over three games, because he’ll likely be back.

There are a lot if considerations. The answer is NOT easy.

The points target is 70 this season. We need to find 22 points. We have 13 games left. 6 wins, 2 draws.

Take 7 points next week and that’s 32% of the target taken down with just 23% of the final game total.

It’ll be interesting. Mikel Arteta is a gambler. He doesn’t usually shy away from going big. But will some of the incidents with injury from the past affect his judgment here?

Either way, the most important thing we need to remember is that every other club has baggage.

Spurs are the nightmare for Arsenal. They have been very poor this season, but if they win against Everton, they are just 3 points behind us. That is nothing.

I suspect they are more likely than not to beat Manchester United, because United is a bag of crazy and toxic cultures prioritise BIGGER opportunities. Hard to imagine their squad not thinking about the Atletico game.

Still, if United do lose that game to Spurs, I think we’re looking at a situation where they might be close to exiting the top 4 run-in. That’s good for everyone if they lose focus.

We’re also getting close to that with West Ham. Firstly, we need them to beat Sevilla over two legs, because that keeps a fragile squad fragile and the focus fragmented. They have to play Sevilla away this week, then play Villa, followed by the home leg, then a game against Spurs. They could be out of the running by the end of next week.

Spurs has their toughest run of games until the end of the season. United (a), Brighton (a), West Ham (h). It’s either going to derail them or galvanise them heading into the home stretch. After those games, the hardest encounters they have will be Arsenal and Liverpool.

The biggest point out of all of this is we are in the mixer with 13 games left to play, our Champions League destiny is very much in our hands, the key to it is focus, fitness, and good luck.

If those three elements hold until the end of the season, we’re looking at a very exciting summer of movement.

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